Iowa Farmers Choose Successors, But Stay Involved in Farm

August 27, 2015 12:00 PM
Iowa Farmers Choose Successors, But Stay Involved in Farm

Giving up control of your farm, even to a hand-picked successor, can be hard to do.

Just look at the latest numbers from the 2014 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. According to researchers, 49.1% of the farmers surveyed have chosen someone to succeed them on the farm. In most cases, that person is a son, daughter, or their spouse (73.9%), but not always; 14% have an unrelated successor, and 12.1% plan to hand the farm over to a nephew, niece, sibling, or other relative.

But when you come from a family that has farmed for an average of 100 years and the average age of your successor (37 years) is less than the average number of years (39) that you’ve been farming, it can be a little tough to step away.

For many, the answer appears to be varying levels of individual and shared responsibility for farm operations, at least for those who are nearing retirement or qualify as “semi-retired.”

How does this principle get put into practice? Here are a few examples of this approach between farmers and their chosen successors, according to the report:

  • Timing of operations: 15.6% make this decision equally. Nearly one-fifth, or 19.2%, leave this entirely to the successor, and 20.4% allow the successor to make this decision, with the older farmer’s input.

  • Level of inputs to use: 18% make this decision equally.

  • What machinery to buy: 15.5% make this decision equally. One-quarter, or 25%, leave this entirely to the successor.

  • Develop annual crop and livestock plans: 17.9% make this decision equally.

  • Negotiate sales of crops and/or livestock: 17.6% make this decision equally.

  • When to sell crops and or livestock: 18% make this decision equally.

What can’t veteran farmers give up? Paperwork. “They tended to maintain control of farm record-keeping, with 53% reporting that they were either solely responsible (42%) or primarily responsible (11%) for that task,” the report said.

Have you chosen a successor for your farm? How do you handle decision-making? Let us know in the comments or on the AgWeb discussion boards. 


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